Tuesday, August 6, 2013

New Tunes Reviews, August 6: The Civil Wars, Polyphonic Spree, Jake Bellows, and more

There were some notable releases this week. I was most excited for The Civil Wars' self titled album. I also was looking forward to the Explosions in the Sky collaboration for the Prince Avalanche soundtrack but it wasn't on Spotify. 

Here are the reviewed albums: 
The Civil Wars self titled
Polyphonic Spree Yes It's True
Jake Bellows New Ocean
Longlost Save Yourself, Start Again

+ + +

For those who don't know, this album comes after the recent disillusion  of collaboration between Joy Williams and John Paul White. In general, there is something so dreamy about The Civil Wars. It may be the way Williams' voice flows through the melodies or White's quiet yet powerful instrumentals and backup vocals.  On this self-titled album, the sadness comes through in each of the tracks. The title of the single, "The One That Got Away," is just a preview of the heartbreak and disappointment that plagues the release. "From the Valley" and "Oh Henry" are two high points. I wonder where this group of songs will stand up next to
 Barton Hollow, which is one of my favorite albums of 2011. 

In addition, the test will be what follow this release.  Now that the duo has they broke up as a band, what will they do next? I wonder what each of these solo-projects will sound like. Are these two individuals an example of the "better together" theory?  

Note: If you like these type of vocals but are feeling a lusher and more upbeat sound, check out Mount Moriah. This Merge band just released a great new album called Miracle Temple. 

Talk about a band that just has too many members! The Polyphonic Spree's extensive membership of flute, piano, cello, trombone, keyboards, and more really plays into the lusciousness of their sound. Since I recently started listening to The Flaming Lips, I noticed that many of the songs on Yes It's True seem like a nod to the FLips, especially "Carefully Try" and "Blurry Up the Lines."  As of now, I enjoyed the album. It had that baroque and dreamy quality that one would expect from this band. But as with every Polyphonic Spree album, I ask myself, "Would I go back to this album?"  The gimmick of baroque-style and multi-instrumentation is something I rarely am in the mood for. If you are a fan of Beirut, check out this album. It feels very similar.  I'd rather listen to the Flaming Lips, personally. 

Jake Bellows, former member of Saddle Creek band Neva Dinova, released his first solo album this week, called New Ocean.  In general, Saddle Creek bands are known for that lower Midwest folk-y song.  This album has the usual twang and Bellows' has obviously strong songwriting skills. Overall, I liked the album. It satisfied my propensity towards male singer-songwriters. I am interested to hear more.

I never heard of Longlost but New Music Tuesday is a great opportunity for discovering the unknown. When I saw this album on Largehearted Boy's list, I clicked through because I was intrigued by the album's name (Save Yourself, Start Again). The Amazon page described the debut album from this Boston band, recently signed to No Sleep Records, as "upbeat power-pop to solemn folk, which any fans of bands like Death Cab For Cutie, Circa Survive, Maps & Atlases and Rilo Kiley will undoubtedly adore." 

As a fan of DCFC and Rilo Kiley, I gave this album a chance and it is as advertised. It has that pop-punk sound popular in the early 2000s. The title track reminds me of an early Starting Line song. Most of the other tracks have that Armor for Sleep quality with the harmonies and breakdowns. XM's AltNation would play these songs on repeat. I wish that this band was around during the early 2000s. But then again Longlost would probably just have gotten lost in the mass of similar bands that existed during that time. If you are interested in hearing what is current in the pop-punk scene, I'd recommend this album. It was an enjoyable journey back into long-lost music preferences. 

[editor's note: an update was made on 8/6 to reflect an incorrect characterization of the relationship between members of The Civil Wars and some additional thoughts on that album were added.]


  1. I'm really not sure if the breakup of the Civil Wars should be referred to as "romantic." I'm sure there's speculation of romance and infidelity, as there always is in woes of bands and duos, but both Williams and White are married (to other people) with children.

  2. That is a good point. I've read a number of articles where romantic references are made. Thanks for the tip. I will make an adjustment in my wording.